Mediocre in every way
"Broken Sword" is an example of what we call "post-classical" period of adventures. It was made after LucasArts'
great discoveries, and it tries to recreate the transparent atmosphere of the classic style. It might sound strange, but the only positive thing there is to say about "Broken Sword" is that there is really nothing negative to say about it. In other words, it's not bad, but it's also not very good.
If we analyze the game from technical point of view, there is nothing really wrong with it. There are some nice dialogues and humorous remarks you won't find in American games simply because they are so British. The Paris part of the game, where it resembles a detective story, is more successful than Irish or Syrian parts - I enjoyed interrogating suspects and gathering evidence, even as an amateur detective. There is one more or less unexpected twist in the story. The characters don't strike you as particularly dumb or annoying. The puzzles are solid for the most part, neither too hard nor too easy. The graphics are technically quite good. In short, there is nothing wrong with this game...
...just as there is nothing great in it. Like some other post-classical adventures, "Broken Sword" cannot quite decide whether it is a serious, world-embracing, occult-oriented tale, or a comedy title reminiscent of classic adventures. It is very hard to be serious and humorous at the same time, and unfortunately, "Broken Sword" doesn't succeed in either of those directions. It is occasionally amusing, but it doesn't really have a good sense of humor; at the same time, it is too light-hearted to be taken seriously.
Not many games could tell serious stories while spicing them with humor. Gabriel Knights
series was one of the few that did it right. Those games told deep stories and had dark, even macabre atmosphere; whenever they injected them with humor, they did it at the right time and in the right doses, so that it never interfered with the sinister atmosphere or disrupted the dramatic pace of the story. "Broken Sword" could not do the same.
The game's story looks serious on paper, but in reality, it is quite boring in a dry, "educational" way. Once again, Gabriel Knight games come to mind. They had plenty of educational material - in fact, more than "Broken Sword". So how did they manage to have such suspenseful, intriguing stories? Because they combined all the historical and occult material with personal involvement. Their heroes suffered, had inner conflicts, had their own moral codes, they fought, loved and hated. The main characters of "Broken Sword", on the other side, are much too indifferent. You never learn much about their personalities. You don't really care for them. And they also don't care so much for what's happening in the game. They are too tranquil, too distant. The murder mystery seems like a tourist attraction to them - or at least that's the impression they give to the player.
The graphics fail to contribute to the game's atmosphere. They are too bright, too crisp, too cartoon-like, as if they were imported out of a comedy adventure - which "Broken Sword" is decidedly not.
The game is neither dramatic nor very dynamic - there are some suspenseful moments, but they are easily forgotten once we return to the rather monotonous routine of the game. The story style has been recycled thousand times, and the overall premise of the game strongly resembles that of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis
, a game that inspired it in many ways.
The gameplay is also not much more than a collection of "normal" puzzles. Give this item to that guys, ask that person about this thing... all the puzzles are almost equal in difficulty level, they follow similar patterns and there is probably none you'll remember after completing the game.
The Bottom Line
+ No serious flaws
- Weak personality
- Mediocre presentation
- Mediocre story
- Mediocre gameplay
- Can't decide whether it is serious or not
One word comes to mind when I think about "Broken Sword": lukewarm
. It resembles a hard-working, but not very talented student, who did his best to imitate the creations of his great master. But the result is a rather uninspired work that lacks personality and soul. In other words, it is classical, but it is not a classic.